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Feeding grass straws to cattle and horses Public Deposited

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Published September 1988. Facts and recommendations in this publication may no longer be valid. Please look for up-to-date information in the OSU Extension Catalog:


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  • Recent studies show that feeding some grass straws can lower feed costs for mature cattle and horses without greatly reducing animal performance or body weight. In the Willamette Valley alone some 100,000 beef cattle and 41,000 dairy cows could use some grass straw as a substitute for hay during their dry period if the straw were properly supplemented with customary feed additives. In addition, grass straw can be included in rations for horses. Annually, a half-million tons of grass straw could be available in western Oregon for feed purposes. Grass straw is not satisfactory in rations for high-producing dairy, lactating beef cows, or young, growing stock. It is lower than most legume hays in both protein and digestible energy, but it can be superior to some overly mature grass hays. More than half of the dry matter of straw consists of cellulose and hemicellulose. These can be excellent sources of energy in a ruminant's ration, but the large quantities of lignin in straw reduce digestibility, available protein content, and palatability. In formulating a balanced ration, you should understand the characteristics of grass straw to use it to best advantage. Oregon State University tests show a wide variation in the amounts of crude protein in grass straws. The range in crude protein varies from a low of 1.25 percent to a high of 11.80 percent (table 1). Some grass species are of higher quality than others. Bluegrass, turf-type (more leafy) perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and bentgrass straws have higher average crude protein contents than the forage-type perennial ryegrass, orchardgrass, annual ryegrass, and chewings and red fescue straws. Keep this in mind as you shop for straw; but above all else, be aware of the wide range in quality, even within a particular species of grass straw. A chemical analysis of the straw is recommended, since it is difficult to determine quality differences visually. Crop residues with less than 8 percent crude protein should be supplemented with high-protein feeds such as soybean meal or high-quality alfalfa hay or pellets to properly balance the rations.
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  • description.provenance : Submitted by Eric Hepler ( on 2010-09-07T18:55:01ZNo. of bitstreams: 1234Grass.pdf: 1504422 bytes, checksum: 77162b180cbc841b369201417377f6c8 (MD5)
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